Would someone please explain the etymology behind this verb? I'm aware of the etymological fallacy, but still want to dredge below and ask not about its definition.

Down below on that webpage, it's written under 'Origin':

late Middle English (in the sense 'to outlaw'): from Latin proscribere, from pro- 'in front of' + scribere 'write'.

Yet how does 'in front of' + 'write' = "to outlaw" and thus the current meaning?

Supplementary: I reference http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=proscribe&allowed_in_frame=0. Yet I still don't intuit the current meaning? The original meaning is given as "publish in writing", but I don't understand how that came to mean what it means.

  • The best source for etymological matters is the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). The first edition, which usually has an answer for questions about words and meanings down to the 1920s, is available online; links to the individual volumes are here. – StoneyB on hiatus Aug 1 '14 at 11:53
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's about etymology, not about learning the English language. The OP isn't asking about how the word is used today or what it means. They just want to know the history behind the word, which is better asked on ELU. – snailplane Aug 3 '15 at 0:45

The sense of the original Latin was “publish”—to write something down in front of the whole world.

The modern sense derives from medieval legal use: an evildoer was ‘outlawed’ by a formal proscription (the technical term was a ‘Writ of Outlawry’) published by a court of law that this person no longer enjoyed the protection of the law and might be killed on sight.

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In Latin one of the 5 different meaning of the verb proscribere is:

To outlaw one by hanging up a tablet with his name and sentence of outlawry, confiscation of goods, etc.

That is where the meaning of the English verb proscribe is derived from.

Another meaning is:

To publish a person as having forfeited his property, to punish with confiscation, to confiscate one's property.

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